I have arrived in the motherland and I feel at home. My colleague Rita asked if I wanted to go to Kenya and after reviewing my schedule I had some time to spare before heading to my other destinations. We arrived around 2 pm and I got a Uber to Ibis Styles Hotel Westlands. From the Uber driver to the hotel staff the hospitality has been welcoming. I was able to get checked into my room, settled and wash off what I call “airplane dirt”. In front of the hotel was a little market with ladies selling various items. I took a peek and of course they were all catering to me for a purchase.
View from Ibis.
Next I went up to the roof top bar for happy hour and a light snack. I got a beer called Dire and Straits Pilsen. Very much like a wheat beer with a refreshing taste paired with a Greek salad and fries. I plan on spending my time here relaxing and preparing to leave for my safari to the Maasai Mara tomorrow.
My driver arrived 45 minutes early this morning. Good thing I got up extra early, but I missed breakfast. The driver proceeded to pick up two other guys from Minnesota that would be making the trip with me. A few miles down the road we were transferred into a safari jeep with six others. While waiting to get the safari loaded, I was overwhelmed by the number of homeless Kenyans in the area begging for food and money. We were given a short briefing by our driver Isaac. He explained that we would be headed to the Great Rift Valley where we would pick up another person and take a picture. Upon arriving to the area it was covered in fog and light rain. No pictures here. Also, it is winter here so the temperatures are a little cooler.
Fog in the Great Rift Valley.
We began our five or so hour trip. Isaac said it would be bumpy and it sure was. We stopped for lunch before our last two hours. When we arrived we let the first group out at an eco camp. It was cute, but not my type of place. We continued on and dropped the rest off at camp that was tented. Thank God I didn’t select this place because I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. Isaac asked if I was willing to check in later since mine was a little further and we could get going on the game drive. I agreed. I mean that probably would not have been nice to the others.
A short distance up the road we entered Masai Mara National Reserve. As we entered it was like a scene out of a movie. Animals everywhere, and a variety. It’s currently migration season for wildebeest. They have completely taken over the reserve. Within a small area there were hundreds and it continued the whole drive. I also saw lions, monkeys, zebras, Mara flamingos, birds, cheetahs and elephants from a distance. It was totally worth every penny and lived up to the pictures.
I was dropped of first as a courtesy since I forfeited earlier. Masai Mara Sopa Lodge is my type of living. I know what I can and can’t take when it comes to lodging. I need a door, four walls and my own bathroom. The check in briefing was nice and I was taken to my personal lodge. After settling in, I went to the main lodge for and drink and the buffet dinner. Either I was starving or the food was good; most likely a combination of both.
Afterwards I settled in for the night. I was supposed to be ready at 6:30 am for an all day game drive. Needless to say, when I heard knocking on my door at 6:45 and I knew I had messed up. I said go without me. I had already seen lots of animals yesterday. So I slept in, read, slept some more, watched When They See Us (which turned into crying for hours), slept more and then had a late lunch. I figured it’s my vacation and I’ll do what I want to on my own schedule.
While hanging around the lodge I had an opportunity to chat with a worker. He had served me the previous night. Alex came and talked with me to inquire where I was from and how I was enjoying my time. He came here to work from Central Kenya and loves it. I appreciate the time he spent to talk with me about the country and his love for the place. He really is a great server and I wish him the best.
After lounging around this afternoon, I had dinner before preparing for the Maasai Mara tribe performance. Alex even pointed out the best seat in the house. Meanwhile, I spoke to security about a wake up knock (never saw a phone and no Wi-Fi in rooms) since I can’t afford to miss my ride back to Nairobi tomorrow.
I just found my heart here. Anytime I’m traveling I try to do something that culturally enhances me. The performance was wonderful and truly heart felt. Afterwards it was explained that the dance they performed was a ritual after coming out of the bush and earning their next step in tribe. In this moment, I can’t find the words to describe the performance or feelings. One thing I do know is I am a better person for being able to experience this in all of its authenticity.
I got up on time this morning. We went on a game drive and I was able to see elephants and baby cheetahs. Baby cheetahs are too cute. It was really cold this morning, so it was a little difficult for me to really get into the drive.
Afterwards we shuffled around some people into different vans and started making out way to Nairobi. On the unpaved road coming out of the Mara, there were many times I just thought we were driving through the woods. Like this is not a real road. I slept most of the way there, so I missed a lot of the scenery. But what I will say, is it feels like a place that is half on the grid and half off.
You have some accommodations like mine that seem to be resort like and others that are full-fledged camp grounds. And then you have the homes of the Maasai Mara people that are shacks. It’s very eye opening in terms of the have and the have nots. I wonder if they are happy people? Do they want more? Do they have a desire to leave and pursue higher education? I guess I’m trying to get a grasp of how the feel or see themselves. I know they are a proud group.
Well, safely made it back to Nairobi. I stayed at Azure Hotel, which was very nice. I settled into my room and went to the restaurant to have a late lunch/dinner. It was okay, not my favorite. I went back up to my room and prepared for the next day. The front desk told me I should leave at 6am since it was a work day to arrive at the airport on time. Rita confirmed the same as well. I drifted off to sleep pretty fast. I caught my uber to the airport. The traffic situation feels like a get in where you fit in type of thing. Also, anytime I’m in a country that drives on the left side of the road it automatically feels dangerous.
Never in my life have I ever had to get out of the car upon arrival at the airport and walk through a security room and then get back in the car to proceed to departures. There is a first time for every thing I guess. The Uber driver drops me off and points to my terminal. It’s about a football field away. As soon as I start walking, this guy in a suit jacket and jeans informs me he is an airport employee and he would lead me. I was like “Where is your name tag?” He turned and walked the other way. However, as I was waiting for my friend, I watched traveler after traveler get dupped by this whole ring of guys. The funny part is the unsuspecting ones that didn’t realize they would have to pay for the walk over to the terminal. Some agreed, others were like nope. I mean I can drag my own suitcase for free.
Rita arrived at the airport and we checked in our luggage. I had exactly 23 kilos. We had breakfast at a restaurant called Paul Caffe. I’m not going to write the whole business off, but service was bad and the food was subpar. We finally boarded our flight to Mombasa. It was only 45 minutes, but we had great conversation. By the way we work together, sit next to each other and team teach randomly. I’m so thankful that she encouraged me to visit her country and was willing to spend some time with me after being away from her family for 10 months.
Because she is a native to Kenya, I was able to unpack my feelings with her about my observations. I think as an educator she was able to help me understand what it looks like for teachers and students in Mara. She said the board of education places the teachers there that are new to the profession. It’s a remote location and maybe after a year or two they can request a transfer. I was also curious if people want to leave there. Like do you know that a city is in reach with a university and you could potentially get an advanced education and prosper outside the tribe. Well, she explained that those who escape or run away for more become an outcast. The girls are meant to marry older men and continue to live life there. They are actually already spoken for before they can probably make a decision. This completely breaks my heart, but I also understand tradition.
As a side note, after Qatar I want to head to South East Asia and then my final stop is an African country. I don’t know which one yet, but I’m going to do some research and an African tour one summer.
As always, if you visit my instagram @jetsetmelanin2018, you can find more pictures in my stories.